Show You Care – Deliver a Tech Intervention

Do you know of someone who spends entirely too much time plugged into their Blackberry? Does their idea of true social interaction usually involve spending quantity time on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter?

Would you like to let your plugged in friend know that you’re concerned about them? Well now you can, thanks to the folks who bring you, a social networking portal that facilities in-person group meetings.

Recently, the Meetup team launched a new website,, which allows you to send a friend or loved one a prepackaged “intervention email” and an invitation to view an animated video that cleverly illustrates the perils of tech addiction.

The sponsors say they are responding to an epidemic they call “Screen Addiction,” in which “the electronic screens invade every corner of your life.”

Selecting from a dropdown menu, you can customize your missive — telling your tech-obsessed friends that you “care” or, alternatively, that their habit is “getting annoying” or that you “know what it’s like.” Other customization features let you express fear that your email recipient risks turning into a zombie or may soon forget how to say words out loud. You can even ask your plugged-in friends to think about when they last saw the sun, laughed out loud instead of LOL’d, or did something that didn’t involve a screen.

We think the concept behind is a great idea. If you’re worried that someone you know is a little too wired to technology, why not deliver a tech intervention today?






Twitter and Politics: a Dynamic Duo

Discussions involving politics are usually provocative under the best of circumstances – but they’re especially contentious when they take place on Twitter. That’s the consensus of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, which found yet another example of how social media is changing our behavior.

A recent center study looked at 20 million tweets about the race for president posted between May 2 and Nov. 27. It found that people “talk” differently about politics on Twitter than they do elsewhere in the world of blogging (e.g., the so-called blogosphere). What’s more, information posted on both Twitter and the blogosphere differed markedly from the political information that Americans receive from news coverage in general.

Tweets about the presidential candidates tended to be more intensely opinionated, and less neutral, than in both blogs and news, according to the study. Further, it seems that a smaller percentage of tweeted statements about the candidates were simply factual in nature without reflecting positively or negatively on a candidate.

But perhaps the most interesting finding was that the political discussion on Twitter has fluctuated with events more than it has elsewhere in the blogosphere, where authors seem to stick with their views more steadily once they have made up their minds about the candidates. On Twitter, by contrast, conversations about the candidates sometimes changed dramatically from week to week, going from positive to negative or vice versa in the blink of an eye.

We’ve seen how Twitter has played a dramatic role in affecting world events. And while it’s impossible to gauge just how influential Twitter will be in determining the next President of the United States, one thing is for sure – the candidates surely will be paying serious attention to Twitter as they take the pulse of the American voter.

NTSB Recommends Ban on Cell Phones While Driving

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended a full ban on the use of cell phones and text-messaging devices while driving. The NTSB recommendation encompasses all cell phone usage while driving – including the use of Bluetooth wireless devices.

It’s a recommendation that we at Unplug and Reconnect heartily endorse.

There can be little doubt that talking on a cell phone or texting while driving can have deadly consequences.  According to the NTSB, some 3,092 roadway fatalities last year involved distracted drivers, many of whom were distracted by their cell phones.

“Needless lives are lost on our highways, and for what? Convenience? Death isn’t convenient,” said NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman,

The NTSB doesn’t have the power to impose regulations, but its recommendations are heavily considered by lawmakers. Many states already ban cell phones.

The independent federal agency’s recommendation coincided with news that a 19-year-old pickup truck driver who caused a deadly pileup in Missouri last year had sent or received 11 texts in the 11 minutes preceding the accident involving two school buses. The truck driver and a 15-year-old student were killed in the accident and 38 others were injured.

“Driving was not [the truck driver’s] only priority,” noted the NTSB’s Hersman.

Disturbingly, the use of cell phones while driving is on the rise, and especially alarming is the number of drivers who text while operating a moving vehicle, according to the NTSB. The federal agency found in a study of 6,000 American drivers that about two out of every 10 – and half of drivers between 21 and 24 – say they’ve texted or emailed while driving. What’s worse, most of those surveyed found nothing wrong with the practice.

As these attitudes indicate, it will take more than laws to halt the improper use of cell phones on the road. Public education campaigns and strict enforcement of cell phone laws must accompany a nationwide ban as proposed by the NTSB.

We think the NTSB’s high-profile recommendation and – significantly – its efforts to highlight the dangers of cell phone abuse among motorists and law enforcement officials, are certainly a step in the right direction.

Unplugging Your Kids from Technology

If your children are a little too plugged in to technology, you might have noticed some unwanted side effects. Digital overload has been associated with a host of problems, including attention difficulties, low grades, impaired sleep, obesity and withdrawal from family life, among others.

But there are practical things you can do as a parent to help wean your child from technology overuse. Here are a few ideas:


  • Know how much is too much. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that young children shouldn’t spend more than two hours a day plugged into technology. If your child is spending more than that – and the average child does spend an average of eight hours – it’s time to set limits.
  • Declare ‘Unplug and Reconnect’ time. Specify a special tech-free time of day. Enjoy a meal without interruptions. Plan a family game night. The goal is to disconnect from technology and to find time to reconnect with your family.
  • Offer alternatives. Help your child develop a list of entertaining, technology-free games and other activities they could do by themselves or with the family. Show them that there’s a world of fun beyond the Internet.
  • Get moving. Today’s technology-addicted children are more sedentary than is good for them – which may explain why childhood obesity and Type II diabetes rates are soaring. Encourage physical play – perhaps even a family touch football game now and then.
  • Foster a balance. Establish a rule that technology use must be balanced with other activities. Tell your children that every hour spent surfing the Internet must be offset by an hour playing a non-technological activity.
  • Set a good example. Your children will often emulate your behavior. If you think they’ve become too consumed by technology, make sure that the same isn’t true of your own technology use.

Study: Americans Killing Time Online

A new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reveals that Americans in all age groups are going online for no reason other than to pass the time of day.

The study found that 53 percent of all young adults ages 18-29 and 58 percent of all adults in all age groups use the Internet as a diversion from daily life. According to Pew researchers, these figures are higher than in 2009, when Pew last asked how adults use the Internet, and “vastly higher” than in the mid-2000s.

PEW attributes this hike in Internet usage to several trends, including the rise of broadband connections, the increasing use of video that is enabled by these high-speed connections, and the “explosion” of social networking.

“When they have some down time, more and more [people] are finding the Internet a fun, diverting place to spend their leisure moments,” said Lee Rainie, author of the Pew report. “It’s not necessarily surprising to see that this is a favorite pastime of young adults. It is a bit surprising to see that the incidence of this use has grown in every age demographic. The Internet is not just the playground of the young.”

We can’t help but worry about this trend.

Some of the greatest artists, inventors, leaders of industry have been known to say that it is during the so-called boring times, the down time, that they get their best ideas. That sometimes, in the absence of activity, creativity flourishes.

Other worthwhile pursuits also suffer when we fill our precious spare time going online just to have something to do. We’re frittering away time that we could spend playing with our children, walking with a friend, reading a book, writing a poem, planting a garden, or simply savoring a bit of quiet “me” time in our otherwise hectic lives.

It certainly bears thinking about.